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Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Warning

Each summer brings an influx of new teachers and students to Taiwan. Recent college graduates come, ABC's (American Born Chinese) and teachers who know that the summer months bring the busiest schedules and best opportunities to make a quick buck (if you don't mind teaching forty or fifty hours a week). To those coming who stumble upon this page, I have a warning.

I should clarify that. If you are coming to Taiwan and enjoy playing basketball, I have a warning. If you don't play basketball, you can skip right past this and go on looking for more pertinent information about life in Taiwan.

I often annoy myself when I play basketball. When I was younger I would whine a lot when I played.

"How could you call that foul!?" with a scowl of disbelief on my face and a tone that prompted laughter from people watching.

"Come on, he's all over me. This isn't football. It certainly isn't sex . You've got to call something!"

I think only my patheticness saved me from countless technical fouls or ejections.

I also got frustrated at myself a lot. Which meant screaming at myself, hitting myself on the head, etc. when I missed a shot or made a turnover. If I wasn't playing up to my expectations for myself, I was pissed. Given that I expected myself to play on a level that I was no where close to, I was pissed just about every time I played.

Now, when I can't jump as high as I used to, and my shooting abilities are all but gone thanks to a two year stretch without touching a ball, I have lowered my expectations to an extent, and have lowered my voice as well. Now I suffer my frustrations silently. Well, usually.

One thing I can say about my time playing basketball when I was growing up - despite my whininess, I very rarely called cheap fouls. If we were playing a pick-up game I would only call a foul if I was really hit hard. Just about everyone I knew was like that. Calling ticky-tack fouls was the equivalent of getting down on your hands and knees and begging to be insulted.

The same, alas, can not be said of basketball in Taiwan. Take for example last night. The guy was about my height (6'2" give or take) and about twenty pounds heavier than me. If he got the ball and the ball was knocked away, he called a foul. If he took a shot and missed it, he called a foul. His teammate, of a similar mentality had a defining moment for the night. He had his shot blocked, and, after a long moment, smiled and - it seemed- despite himself called a foul.

Were this a rare occurance, I would not mention it. I would also not mention my hissy fit towards the end of one of the games when I called a foul on myself and told the big guy on the other team

"Well hey, if you are going to call all those other touchy fouls when you miss a shot, you better call this one before you made the shot." He looked at me then. Sure I was a baby, and sure, he did not understand what I was saying, but he knew my intent. And you know what? He did just what my students do whenever I "get mad" at them. He gave me a pitying smile and laughed.

However, this was not a one off event. There have been many other occasions where a series of non-existend fouls and fingernail nicks led to uncontrollable frustration. On one memorable Saturday at ShiDa University, it almost led to a fist fight (my teammates, also foreign, took the matter even more seriously than I). In fact, part of the reason I stopped playing basketball was that all my foreign friends left and I could not stand to play when every two minutes a foul was being called.

Perhaps I have mellowed out, or had until last night, but lately I have not had so much trouble while playing. I have to warn those coming, though. Culture shock takes many forms. There are many hurdles one must climb to get acclimated to a new society, a new country, a new life. Some are obvious, some are not. And you never know which one is going to eat at you the most. It might even be a bad national habit of not knowing when it is OK to call a foul.


Anonymous Natalia said...

You better consider becoming humble when playing basketball in Argentina. My friends are nice, but they won't tolerate someone who take it that personal.

Hitting yourself on the head??? I'm glad I never saw that. Now I understand so many other things that get into your brain...

4:19 PM  

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